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Hidden Gems: Meet Amy Fass of Shoes That Fit

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Fass.

Hi Amy, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born in Washington, DC, and grew up wanting to run for the Senate. When I was in high school, we moved to Dallas, Texas—as a newcomer and outsider, that was the end of that dream! My career was primarily in higher education fundraising until my daughter was born. I wanted to stay close to home. So I started consulting for nonprofits; that’s when I fell in love with Shoes That Fit, both as an organization and for the freedom it gave me to bring all of myself to my job. I never imagined myself running a nonprofit.

Nonprofits are two businesses in one – like any business, you have to pursue your mission, but your “customers” cannot pay for your services. So you run a subsidy business (in our case, fundraising) to pay for your mission. Running a nonprofit successfully will use every ounce of experience, every skill set, and all the creative energy you have. I love it!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
This is Shoes That Fit’s 30th Anniversary and my 9th year as CEO. The organization has grown from $3.5 million to $11 million in those 9 years, and we have gone through our share of growing pains, including culture change, significant Board development, and constant decisions about where to grow and where not to invest. Managing the organization through the pandemic, as the need grew exponentially, the supply chain for shoes dried up, and some of our business funders dropped back, was a huge struggle. I am happy to say that we came through it whole, found new ways to reach children who needed us, and grew the organization. In my experience, the most significant growth comes from “struggles.” As they say, adversity is the mother of invention.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Shoes That Fit tackles one of the most visible signs of poverty in America by giving children in need new athletic shoes to attend school with dignity and joy prepared to learn, play, and thrive. Our mission is much larger than shoes—we remove a primary barrier to a child’s success and invest in their self-esteem, providing an often-overlooked item that is intrinsically important to a child’s sense of self. We directly respond to the overwhelming problem of child poverty in the United States and allow people to make a difference in their communities. We are unique in that we only provide brand-new athletic shoes to children—we want them to have high-quality shoes that they can be proud to wear. Our goal is to invest in our children, to let them know that they matter and their community is proud of them. Our children are our future, and we are committed to removing barriers to their success. I am incredibly proud of this organization! We are celebrating our 30th Anniversary this year, and we have come a long way from our start as a purely volunteer-driven organization. We provided shoes to more than 150,000 children last year and are on the precipice of tremendous growth. Shoes That Fit is a testament to the power of people to make a difference in the world.

Had we love to hear about your fond memories of growing up?
When I was little, we lived on the top floor of an old Baltimore house with a running stream across the street at the bottom of a ravine. It was lovely. The couple who owned the house lived on the bottom floor, and they had this beautiful black German Shephard named Zigfried –he was enormous. When we had thunderstorms, he would come to our door, beg to be let in, and lie down next to my bed. Whenever I would go outside, he would follow me. If I wandered into the front yard, he’d grab onto my shorts so that I couldn’t go near the street or the ravine — I remember being very angry at him at times! But he was my best friend, and sometimes I wonder if I had a guardian angel. Maybe that is the role of all our pets.

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Image Credits
Jamie Schiloski Photography

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